Prairie Politics

Insider dispatches from our writers on politics in Wichita, Topeka and Washington.

Prairie Politics

Kansas panel on foster care instructs DCF to research family structure

January 11, 2016 02:44 PM

UPDATED January 11, 2016 02:47 PM

A few minutes before the Kansas Legislature officially gaveled in, a special committee approved a pre-session report instructing the Kansas Department for Children and Families to research family structure.

The special committee on foster care approved a recommendation that “peer-reviewed, evidence-based factors regarding family structure be considered a high priority” in foster care placements. Democrats warned that this language was meant to enable discrimination against same-sex couples as foster care parents, a charge that majority Republicans did not entirely rebut.

The committee heard testimony in November from Donald Paul Sullins, a controversial sociologist and Catholic priest, who has published a study claiming that children raised by same-sex couples undergo emotional problems later in life. Sullins’ research has been disputed by the American Psychological Association.

Sen. Forrest Knox, R-Altoona, the committee’s chair, did not explicitly bring up same-sex couples, but said that the purpose of the recommendation was to ensure that DCF and foster care contractors had a justification when they decided to place a child in a home.

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However, after Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka, raised concern that the intention was to allow discrimination, Rep. Willie Dove, R-Bonner Springs, responded that discrimination of foster care parents should not be a concern. He argued that the state’s only concern should be the best interest of the child and said that maybe the state should discriminate in some cases.

The vote comes at a time when DCF already faces allegations that it has been showing a preference to heterosexual couples in foster care and adoption cases. Another committee is expected to vote on a proposal to audit the agency later this week.

Bryan Lowry: 785-296-3006, @BryanLowry3